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Will Trump Prove to Be Another Romney?

May 03, 2023
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President Biden’s team hopes the 2024 race will mirror the last one. It won’t, if Republicans are smart.

This time, there’s no pandemic to excuse Mr. Biden’s campaigning from his basement. His mental decline will be obvious, as will his turn to the left. He won’t be able to portray himself convincingly as a moderate unifier, as he did in 2020. No wonder Mr. Biden is losing independents—only 14% said in the April 17 Associated Press/National Opinion Research Center poll that they’d like him to run for re-election.

And placating his party’s leftists hasn’t produced the sky-high approval he likely hoped for among more left-leaning groups critical to his re-election, such as young people, blacks and self-described progressives. Only 14% of Democrats under 50 in the March 20 Monmouth University poll preferred Mr. Biden to run again, as did 27% of black, Hispanic and Asian-American Democrats and 22% of very liberal Democrats. 

This notable lack of enthusiasm is due partially to the base’s unreasonable expectation of what Mr. Biden could have done with a 50-50 Senate and Democratic House his first two years and with a Republican-controlled House this year. But much of this diffidence likely comes from the widespread sense that Mr. Biden is a spent force. Even the New York Times editorialized two weeks ago that Democrats are right to worry “he will simply be too old to be effective in a second term.” There’s a real fear that the Democratic base might stay home if Mr. Biden runs.

The president’s brain trust believes this can all be remedied if it can replicate the structure of the 2020 contest: Make the election a choice between Mr. Biden and Donald Trump

Mr. Trump’s standing has deteriorated since that election over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and his unending, falsehood-filled grievances about what he claims was the “stolen” 2020 election. In the April 19 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, even 23% of Republicans thought Mr. Trump should drop out of the 2024 race after the Manhattan district attorney indicted him over allegedly hiding hush-money payments to a porn star by failing to mark it as a campaign expense, though the indictment was widely panned by legal experts on the right and left. Despite all that, Mr. Biden is so weak that he trails Mr. Trump by about half a point in the RealClearPolitics average, 43.5% to 43.9%.

So expect Team Biden to reuse the 2012 Democratic playbook. Like Mr. Biden, President Obama was vulnerable headed into his re-election campaign. His stimulus bill and Affordable Care Act had provoked the populist tea-party revolt. His campaign needed to change the contest from a referendum on Mr. Obama’s performance to a choice between an imperfect incumbent and an unacceptable challenger.

The Obama high command quickly swung into action, blasting Mitt Romney well before he had won the long, contentious and costly nomination battle on April 24. Team Obama recognized that extolling Mr. Obama’s first-term record and outlining his vision for the future were insufficient. 

So on April 11, it opened up on Mr. Romney with an advertising blast depicting the former Massachusetts governor as a heartless plutocrat. Democrats kept this up for nearly seven months, pounding Mr. Romney as filthy rich, out-of-touch and indifferent to people’s everyday struggles—even as mistreating his dog. It worked.

President Biden’s team hopes the 2024 race will mirror the last one. It won’t, if Republicans are smart.

This time, there’s no pandemic to excuse Mr. Biden’s campaigning from his basement. His mental decline will be obvious, as will his turn to the left. He won’t be able to portray himself convincingly as a moderate unifier, as he did in 2020. No wonder Mr. Biden is losing independents—only 14% said in the April 17 Associated Press/National Opinion Research Center poll that they’d like him to run for re-election.

And placating his party’s leftists hasn’t produced the sky-high approval he likely hoped for among more left-leaning groups critical to his re-election, such as young people, blacks and self-described progressives. Only 14% of Democrats under 50 in the March 20 Monmouth University poll preferred Mr. Biden to run again, as did 27% of black, Hispanic and Asian-American Democrats and 22% of very liberal Democrats.

Read More at the WSJ

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